An Open Letter to the Parents of College-Bound Children

The second biggest day of your child’s life has arrived. S/he is college bound.

Preparations for the transition to college are in full swing, and so are the emotions you and your kid will feel at this time. What you are feeling is normal, but you might be able to use a little advice:

Dear Parents of College-Bound Children:

You’re looking forward to this next milestone in your child’s life. The day s/he goes to college is every bit as emotional as the day your child arrived in your world.

There’s a lot to remind your son or daughter about, like remembering to charge the phone and avoid washing the colored clothes in hot water, but you’ll want to share some of your wisdom and reflections, too.

Communicate in writing

I encourage you to write a letter to your child. It’s something s/he can read after you’ve left. The beauty of a personal and heartfelt message is that it will become a treasure, tucked away in a safe place and re-read often.

Take on new roles

You’ve been the parent for 18 years, and if the two of you have gotten this far, you’ve done a good job. You’ll continue to be the parent in the relationship, but how you parent will begin a metamorphosis. You’ll no longer be the problem-solver. Your college freshman will have to learn solve his or her own problems.

If your child does call home for advice, ask open-ended questions that allow for self-reflection. You want your child to come up with solutions on his or her own. Coach them through the process.

Preserve trust

You also need to be the stabilizer.

Your child has his/her feet in two worlds right now. S/he is not at home with you but isn’t truly living on his/her own yet. Maintain trust in your relationship by keeping your child informed of changes back at home, such as deciding to downsize or the death of a family pet.

Let go.

You don’t need to call the college professors to check if your child’s assignments have been turned in or if there are any failing grades. Most professors won’t tell you anyway because you’re not the adult taking the class.

Your child is.

And your son or daughter must be the one to manage his/her workload, get assignments turned in, and follow up with them.

You no longer have to be the manager.

A final thought

In his poem “On Children,” Kahlil Gibran wrote this about raising kids:

“You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.”

It’s time to let them grow into the adults you raised them to be.

You’ll both be fine.


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